Comments from Al Alvarez

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Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Cinema Village on May 15, 2012 at 11:57 am

After DEEP THROAT opened in 1972 the market changed drastically for art houses and direction the theatre operator took was more distinct between those who programmed European art films and those who programmed sexploitation or hard core and advertised it as art product.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Cinema Village on May 14, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Bigjoe, the SOBO only operated in 1971 and I believe some of the shows were live/film combo nude performance art pieces that would not be considered porn today.

The 55th St Playhouse descent into hard core porn was gradual but there was no closing period. After “THE BOYS IN THE SAND” there was a fine line between gay art films and gay sex films.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Paramount Theatre on May 14, 2012 at 10:45 am

The Sunny Isles and Dadeland opened before the Twin Gables.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Paramount Theatre on May 12, 2012 at 2:45 pm

It was probably a Royal Castle next to the Paramount, plantladie12.

The Olympia was never a twin. There were no twins downtown.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Gables Triple on May 12, 2012 at 6:39 am

Guarina, it opened in 1969 and is now a Winn Dixie location.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Rio Theatre on May 11, 2012 at 9:02 pm

Guarina, if you know the Rio you have so much more to share about Miami Cinemas. Please do share more details of your wonderful Miami movie experiences. We so want to know.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Radio City Music Hall on May 11, 2012 at 8:30 pm

On March 17 THE SIGNING NUN moved in.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Sun Sing Theatre on May 9, 2012 at 8:11 am

FatMan, if you read previous posts you will find your answer.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Radio City Music Hall on May 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm

Not coincidental to the success of “The Valley of Decision”, Germany surrendered that week and audiences were optimistic and wanting to see the news.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Carnegie Hall Cinema on May 8, 2012 at 11:30 am

I assume they started as soft core and moved into hard core after DEEP THROAT raised (ahum) the bar.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Carnegie Hall Cinema on May 8, 2012 at 11:16 am

1972-1973

http://www.flickr.com/photos/25725093@N07/7159529458/in/photostream/lightbox/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/25725093@N07/7159497570/in/photostream/lightbox/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/25725093@N07/7159509116/in/photostream/lightbox/

By mid 1973 both the Carnegie Hall Cinema and the Bleecker St. (same owners) were showing “adult male films” grind.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Carnegie Hall Cinema on May 7, 2012 at 2:45 pm

This was indeed a porn house, gay and straight, for several years in the seventies.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 with IMAX on May 6, 2012 at 5:07 pm

I would love to think that stupid comic book movies just don’t work on the upper west side, but deep inside I know it’s probably not true.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Ziegfeld Theatre on May 5, 2012 at 7:56 am

Although a few ArcLights would be nice, Manhattan is hardly underscreened. With 223 screens serving an audience that increasingly goes to see the same movie, even the Empire 25 is often showing less than ten films with some of the alternative films playing to empty seats.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Embassy 1,2,3 Theatre on May 4, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Good point, techman707.

Why would anyone design a purpose built theatre (except a nickelodeon) before 1915 for a product that was quite an insignificant afterthought until THE BIRTH OF A NATION made its appearance in 1915?.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Royal Theatre on May 4, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I think this building was a recording studio until it was demolished just last year.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Ziegfeld Theatre on May 4, 2012 at 7:05 am

Cablevision has been peddling the Clearview chain for over seven years.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Embassy 1,2,3 Theatre on Apr 27, 2012 at 5:44 am

There were also many stage venues designed for occasional game hunt shows, war footage and/or educational presentations, including film, that we wouldn’t consider cinemas even today. Since full length pictures did not become common until 1914-1915 it would seem the genuine “built for pictures” theatres came after that.

For example, I can’t find records that the Apollo 42nd street showed any film at all from 1914 to 1920. After that it had an occasional run between stage shows for over 15 years amounting to less than six films.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Lane Theatre on Apr 26, 2012 at 7:20 am

On a side note, I found an article on that skating rink having been raided by the police for holding an illegal dance marathon during the depression. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Lane Theatre on Apr 25, 2012 at 10:20 am

Ed, I found several NY Times articles placing it at 560 W. 181st Street.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Embassy 1,2,3 Theatre on Apr 25, 2012 at 9:36 am

That is exactly what I meant.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Embassy 1,2,3 Theatre on Apr 24, 2012 at 7:20 pm

The old Rialto was replaced in 1935. The Variety Photoplays was a gay porn theatre for many years. As to what what projected on the screen, you will need to take their patrons word on that issue.

As for your original question as you have framed it, I think the Regent is indeed the answer.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Embassy 1,2,3 Theatre on Apr 23, 2012 at 8:50 pm

No. I did not see them because I am not 100 years old.

I did see the Variety and the Nova (Bunny) and I think that it is what Bigjoe really wants to know.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Embassy 1,2,3 Theatre on Apr 23, 2012 at 5:43 pm

I think the item that best addresses bigjoe’s query is:

“By the early 1910’s, perhaps 100 theaters built for movies had gone up in New York City.”

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez commented about Embassy 1,2,3 Theatre on Apr 23, 2012 at 3:20 pm

saps posted this on the Variety Photoplays pages in 2006:

saps on March 23, 2006 at 4:23 am

Here is the text of J.P. Valensi’s excellent post:

STREETSCAPES: Variety Photo Plays Theater; Marquee’s Lights Are Dark on 1914 ‘Nickelodeon’

By CHRISTOPHER GRAY Published: September 3, 1989

IT’S hard to put your finger on what was special about it. Perhaps it was the aura of the early days of the movies, but the 1914 Variety Photo Plays Theater at 110 Third Avenue was unforgettable when it was in operation.

Now the theater’s distinctive lightbulb marquee is dark, the property is vacant and being shown to potential buyers and, according to Michael Lerner, the leasing agent, a final decision – to sell, net lease or demolish the building – will come on Sept. 12.

The earliest movie theaters were just ad hoc alterations of spaces of opportunity, like a saloon or a storefront. According to the theater historian Michael R. Miller, these turn-of-the-century nickelodeons, where admission was usually nickel, were not superseded by specifically built movie theaters until 1908, when the Nicholand and Prospect Pleasure Palace went up in the Bronx.

By the early 1910’s, perhaps 100 theaters built for movies had gone up in New York City. They were good businesses and clustered near high-traffic sites. In 1914, one promoter, Jacob Valensi, secured a 15-year lease on a plot on the west side of Third Avenue, just south of the 14th Street stop of the elevated. There he built a two-story theater, according to Mr. Miller’s research, on a site previously occupied by a theater operation. Although filed as a new building, the theater actually used some of the perimeter walls of an older structure; the theater could in some ways be considered to pre-date 1914.

In its name – Valensi’s Variety Photo Plays – it sought an association with legitimate theater endeavors, of which 14th Street had been a center since the 1850’s.

Designed by Louis Sheinart, the exterior of Variety Photo Plays was in plain brick, generally unornamented except for arcaded piers projecting above a sloping tiled false roof. Mr. Miller called Sheinart ‘'a minor, minor architect of many, many theaters’‘ in this period.

Inside, the auditorium was fairly plain, but did have a slightly pitched floor and fixed seats, still novel touches in an industry that had started only recently with plain benches and sheets hung on a wall.

It is not clear if the walls have lost some architectural effect – they are now mostly patched plaster – but the ceiling is covered with modestly patterned pressed tin. Four large Tiffany-type half-globe lighting fixtures have somehow survived, and the simple fixed seats bear a ‘'V’‘ on the end panels.

There are rooftop louvered vents, still remote-controlled with chains that hang down in the middle of the theater, and a great square panel in the center, perhaps 30 feet across, is what remains of a sliding roof used in the days before air-conditioning.

Variety Photo Plays originally seated 450 and, according to Mr. Miller, probably first presented groups of two-reelers, collections of individual features, each 15 or 20 minutes long. This was at a period when the feature-length film was still uncommon and films in general were generally considered low-culture – ‘'photo plays’‘ or not.

By the early 1920’s, nickelodeons like the Variety Photo Plays were being supplanted by larger houses seating one or two thousand, and if the Variety was ever a first-rank theater, it surely must have begun a downward slide at that time.

In 1923, a marquee was added, designed by Julius Eckman. In 1930, a balcony seating 150 and a new lobby were installed by the architects Boak & Paris, who also made over the 1923 marquee. The lobby is nondescript neo-Renaissance and it is the marquee that has made the theater special, at least to modern eyes. Boak & Paris did not change the Eckman marquee’s underside, a coffered field with regularly spaced bulbs, but did add a zigzag Art Deco fascia in enameled metal and neon lighting. The fascia gives the theater’s, rather than the show’s, name and recalls the period when movies were more of a generic product. The lights buzzing on the underside of the marquee, when they were on, enveloped the passerby in a warm, glowing field. People going past the theater, even in the daytime, got a whiff of vintage celluloid, and at night it was intoxicating.

HE film fare over the last 30 years gradually shifted from B-grade to raunchy to naughty to pornographic, and added a slightly forbidden, Coney Island spice to the building. A 10-year-old schoolboy who somehow found himself on lower Third Avenue would walk straight by but keep his eyes glued to the pictures on the billboards outside the ticket booth.

Earlier this year the Department of Health closed the Variety Photo Plays, which was operating as a gay movie theater. Now it is still and musty inside, its 1940’s candy machine empty, its projection booth a small museum of antique apparatus – carbon arc projection lighting was discontinued only a few years ago. The owner, the 110-112 Third Avenue Realty Corporation, includes members of the same families who owned it since the 1920’s. In their hands lies the fate of a institution that will live on at least in the memories of many New Yorkers.